Distracted By Plastic Bags

As the financial system tailspins and sputters about and the Canadian government assures us that the Tar Sands are good for the nation; I’m reminded just how much of the everyday news we receive is marketing spin. And unfortunately the greenies are just as distracted by it as many other people. Words such as sustainable, “good for the environment”, and worst of them all, “green” are popping up on products made by companies who’s CEO’s must have a hard time looking in the mirror. Ultimately, we are being marketed a picture of a choice, and in many instances, the products we’re purchasing are still made by workers in near slave-like conditions, overpackaged, overpriced, and surrounded by false claims and advertising catchwords.

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The White Man’s Peak Oil Pie-Eating Competition

The world is made up of a lot of stupid people – most of these people are white, stupid white people. And funnily enough, most of the mega-corporations in the world are run by white men. Now there are a lot of people who are white and not stupid, I’d hate to alienate all white people, but I’d have to say, (and note at this point, before you call me a racist pig, that I myself am white), that for the most part, the stupidest people in the world are white.

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The Product of the 20th Century – CO2

Back in the sixties, a bold group of thought-leaders considered the path of growth that the world appeared to be heading on, and asked themselves the question, “can there be limits to growth?”. At the time, this was considered a preposterous idea, right in the golden age of the automobile and suburban sprawl with cookie cutter bungalows popping up all over North America.

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Goats on the Front Line of Weed Control

[ad#125-right]Many communities in the Kootenays face massive problems with invasive weed species, particularly along rural road shoulders and on the…

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Jobs in the West Kootenays

40867153_ee7ecdcfb1_m Recently I’ve been wading through regional and municipal growth predictions proposed over the past ten years. One of the things that hasn’t been factored in any of the scenarios I’ve read is the trend towards an aging population that will require an increased younger serving group to move in, (assuming static or improving levels of service).

George Penfold, the regional innovation chair in rural economic development at Selkirk College in Castlegar, said the West Kootenay could see a shortage of 13,000 workers within five years.

Penfold also told the Regional District of Central Kootenay the choking impacts of the baby boom are already being felt in the region and it is getting worse.

edmontonsun.com – Canada- Baby boomer’s retiring

With local unemployment at record lows, many businesses are already finding it hard to keep up with demand for their services.

The region as a whole needs to do some wholesale promotion of the region as a cheap viable place to live and raise a family.

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Casino Free Castlegar

363469200_23d22b09b5_mWe’ll it looks like Castlegar is in line to get a Cashino, (must have been a Freudian slip!). Cash seems to be the view that council has about the proposal, at least that’s what I get from reading the local newspaper, (sorry, no online edition here!), but I’ve quoted the best bits.

For a city surrounded by natural beauty, rivers, lakes, fishing, biking, hiking, golf, skiing, snowmobiling, it’s hard to imagine why we’d need another reason for people to come here, particularly one that is at odds with nature. It’s not natural to sit indoors in a sensory overloaded room staring at a slot machine for hours on end. On the contrary, it is intentionally addictive, they want you to stay there to blow even more of your money.

Also, check out the end of the article for the real reason Castlegar was selected, tell me it’s not true! I challenge you! Then vote for yourself on the real reason in the poll!

BC’s Newest Casino?

Now, when I say, “in line” to get a casino, apparently there is a selection process by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. Hang on, a competition to work out which city is going to get the right to host a casino. A bit much don’t you think. Perhaps they should have started with community input, rather than ending with it? Here’s a snippet of the news…

“The selection of the City of Castlegar is the first milestone in BCLC’s process for choosing the most appropriate location for a community gaming centre,” said Marsha Walden, BCLC’s Vice President of Bingo Gaming. “The City must now review a development proposal from BCLC’s service provider and obtain community input.”

Source: Lottery.com – News – Article Display

What’s a gaming centre? I’ll spell it out C-A-S-I-N-O. No euphemisms please, just the facts please Ma’am. Games are things you play at home with your kids like scrabble and snakes and ladders, or things you play outside like soccer or baseball. Why don’t they call it a Gambling Centre, that would be more accurate really.

Can’t wait for the public forum on this one, I thought the water meter sessions were fun, maybe it will even go to a referendum?

What the Mayor Said About the Proposed Castlegar Casino…

Mayor Chernoff did say that the city would put some money towards gambling addiction problems if they arise. “We’ll put some money towards that… We’ll look after the public, we’re not here to hurt or harm families. We’re here to provide another source of entertainment to the West Kootenay.”

Council hasn’t decided how it will spend it’s 10% take of slot machine revenue. “It’s a nice chunk of money that will surely help the city in things that we want to do … it won’t go to a specific thing … we’ll try to create some more opportunities. Who are we helping in the long term? The taxpayers and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Castlegar Current, Thursday, July 19, 2007 p3

Spoken like a true salesman! Just because some one wants to “give you money” so to speak, doesn’t mean you have to take it! How about waiting to see what the public say before you work out where your ten percent is going? I mean maybe he has done his own research, and figures that the majority of the city want a casino, but most everyone I’ve spoken to about it thinks the idea is bad.

What really disappoints me, is that rather than shooting from the hip, the city should have prepared a press release regarding this matter, with a carefully worded response to the news. Casinos may offer holiday destinations, entertainment and a level of employment, but they can also destroy lives.

I couldn’t decide between the Casino Simpsons scene or the monorail one to represent the problem … So you get both. Enjoy, (then keep reading!) More after the jump…

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Innovative Play Spaces

Following on from my previous blog post Challenging Playgrounds, what can we do to improve upon what we can clearly see as wrong with recent playground designs?

I see several ideas (some not at all implemented) that could improve play space usage:

Tactile Play Spaces

Using natural (and fabricated) materials to create imaginative play spaces is a good idea. Water, sand, gravel, boulders, tree trunks, can all be incorporated into play areas to add interest and imaginative challenge to unstructured play time. The ability to dam up a flowing stream with a sand bank, or some boulders is something that little boys need to do. Last night having a dinner picnic at the park, the kids of three families were congregated around the base of a young sapling tree where some exposed dirt made an impromptu sandpit. There was a perfectly good (by adult standards!) playground not more than 15 meters away! yet these kids, ranging in age from one and a half to ten were enjoying some mud time. The grassed slope was a hit too, seeing who could roll the fastest was a fun competition between the kids while the parents tried to avoid getting dizzy just watching.

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Play Terrain

Playgrounds these days are modular things ordered out of a catalog, turning up on the back of a truck and assembled in a day. The modern concept of a playground arose from the tenements of the inner city areas, where green space and play areas were noticeably absent. Cities are generally flat, and the resulting playground ended up flat too. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Parents want to be afforded a view of where their younger children are within the play space, strategically placed pathways, seating and equipment can be placed on the side of a hill, on a mound or in a gully. Design is only limited by the imagination, and unfortunately, there is not enough imagination in the average play space design.

Playground Rating Systems

Inspired by ski area boundaries and the international rating system that goes from green circle through to double black diamond. The premise is that if you want to try out that terrain be aware of the risks, and the ski hill is able to limit its liability from the users injuring themselves. Following on from the concept of Play Terrain, users and parents of users should be made aware of the age or skill appropriateness of a particular section of a play space if it is uniquely suited to young children or older more experienced children.

This has the added benefit of showing the older children which areas are specifically for the younger kids, and therefore its not so cool to play in there with as much energy. Again, the ski hill example is the Slow Skiing Only areas where trails merge or beginners are present.

I’m not advocating that children need to be made liable for their own actions at age three, rather that in appropriate areas, a system of ratings may permit parents and some children to exercise a level of discernment over which equipment they should be playing on. The challenge should always be there to get children to extend themselves, but mastery of a lower level of activity should occur first.

Construction Spaces

Most kids like to build things, you see it at home with blocks or Lego, but equally, it’s important that they have the ability to build bigger things as well. Play Spaces are being designed in cities such as New York, where children are able to actively build things, and in some cases there are trained playworkers on staff to ensure that play is safe and materials are present for the children to enjoy.

Empowering Children

The end users of the equipment should be given some say in what would be fun to play on or with. Kids have differing expectations across the country and a design pulled from a catalog that states that it is suitable for ages 5-12 may really be a waste of money. An example catalog is from Timberform – (pdf here ~ 10MB). There are lots of interesting designs, but are they right for your neighborhood?

Back to the playground – The Boston Globe

“To a young child,” Roger Hart, director of the Children’s Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York says, “the idea of a playground is ridiculous in the first place. The whole idea of being taken to a place to play is almost an oxymoron. Children want to play everywhere.”

If you are involved in the decision to install or approve play equipment or a new play space, don’t settle for mediocre, get the most exciting design available for your budget. Get community support for a bigger budget.

Realize that children grow and learn in play spaces.

Let us know what you think of these ideas, and share your experiences, good and bad, in playgrounds. Thanks for reading UrbanWokbench!

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